New Jersey Prosecutors Drop Appeal in Christie Sting

Federal prosecutors this week dropped their embarrassing effort to create new law by executive branch fiat in order to prosecute a New Jersey mayoral candidate and his campaign manager. In a case closely covered by the Justice Integrity Project, authorities missed the deadline to appeal to the full U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals two previous rulings that federal bribery statutes are aimed at officials in office, not candidates.

With great fanfare in July 2009, federal prosecutors indicted Democratic Jersey City mayoral candidate Louis Manzo, his brother Ronald Manzo and several other candidates as part of an anti-corruption investigation launched by former New Jersey U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.

News coverage generated by the 46-defendant case helped propel the Republican Christie to New Jersey's governorship later that year, thereby enabling him to hire at least 10 former colleagues from the U.S. attorney's office for state jobs. See below for links to details on this and other recent news stories involving the justice system and related issues in politics and national security.

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May 5 Radio Guest Expert Warns of Privacy Intrusions, Danger

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director

William EyreOur guest on this week’s Washington Update radio show May 5 was information security expert William Eyre, Ph.D., left, author of The Real ID Act, a first-of-its-kind book describing government surveillance in the United States enabled by post-9/11 legislation. The book warns that federal laws and procedures disguised as anti-terrorism measures have far-reaching, sinister implications for ordinary citizens and for the nation’s democratic process.

The show broadcast live with my longtime co-host Scott Draughon may be heard nationwide by archive by clicking here on the My Technology Lawyer (MTL) radio network, and by archive. The interview began 17 minutes past the hour after host comments about the inside angle on national news. Among the topics were the curious choice as publicist for Republican Presidential candidate and brith certificate advocate Donald Trump, shown at right. As Trump makes news by raising a storm of questions regarding President Obama's birth certificate, his publicist apparently is Ari Emanuel, brother of longtime Democratic strategist Rahm Emanuel, who left his post as President Obama's chief of staff to become mayor of Chicago. See details below.

In a unique treatment of the question of Constitutional rights and rights destroying laws, the featured guest Eyre chronicled what he calls the government’s unconstitutional abridgement of individual rights in times of war and national emergency from 1798 to the present. The author emphasized the perpetual and Orwellian “Global War on Terror,” the war that will never end.  He examined also construction of privacy as a right and what he calls the ultimate in rights destruction: TSA’s molestation and naked picture-taking of citizens.  “The new surveillance system,” the author argued, “erodes personal privacy and creates a threat to privacy and autonomy from criminals, the government and (due to insider abuses of data) criminal members of the government.”

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Reform Required After Alabama's Latest Federal Legal Mess

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director

Drastic reform is required following the latest revelations of a breakdown in Alabama's Montgomery-based federal judicial district. Over the weekend, our Justice Integrity Project reported on the latest scandal at the federal courthouse in Alabama, at right. The Frank Johnson courthouse is named for a jurist giant who courageously oversaw the dawn of the Civil Rights era. Sadly, the courthouse is now run by those with scant understanding of public resentment for arrogant, incompetent and self-serving regional federal officials who are empowered by clueless if not sinister officials in Washington from both parties.

To recap, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller and U.S. Attorney Leura Canary allowed court clerks in Alabama’s middle district to publish for months on the court’s electronic filing system secret records about dozens of law enforcement surveillances. Improper disclosures included details of a major political corruption case that’s rocked the state since a dramatic dawn raid by more than 100 police cruisers on an electronic bingo facility early last year. Later, authorities fanned out across the state again on Oct. 4 to arrest 11 defendants in a bribery plot to legalize the gambling. Suspects included gambling center owners Milton McGregor and Ronnie Gilley, who were accused of plotting to bribe four state senators. “More DOJ Abuses Revealed In Notorious Alabama Court” provides details. Last week, Gilley agreed to a plea deal.

The breach in security occurred in the same courthouse where a financially conflicted Fuller presided as the Bush Justice Department in 2006 framed former Gov. Don Siegelman, the state's leading Democrat, on corruption charges. Our four-part series earlier this month summarized specifics, such as the Republican Fuller’s enrichment via $300 million in Bush federal contracts that went to a closely held company the judge controlled. We described also why those who want an honest legal system in Alabama and elsewhere around the nation should fight President Obama’s nomination of Canary’s proposed successor, George Beck, left, because he is hopelessly conflicted from investigating the district's biggest case of the decade and its many offshoots.

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More DOJ Abuses Revealed In Notorious Alabama Court

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director

A federal prosecutor and federal trial judge face a new scandal for allowing court clerks in Alabama to disclose confidential records about dozens of sensitive law enforcement surveillance operations. The security breach occurred in the same courthouse where the Bush Justice Department obtained corruption convictions in 2006 against former Gov. Don Siegelman in a now-infamous political prosecution against the state's leading Democrat.

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller is a Republican who conducted the Siegelman trial while secretly being enriched on the side through his closely held company's receipt of Air Force contracts. Currently, he presides as chief judge over record-keeping at the middle district federal courthouse in Montgomery, at right.

U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, left, is in charge of federal criminal and civil litigation in the district. On Thursday, Canary and her DOJ colleagues obtained a guilty plea from Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley, a gambling entrepreneur who was indicted last fall with nine-other defendants in an alleged plot to bribe legislators. The plea was welcome news for authorities. A different federal magistrate-judge had harshly criticized them earlier this month for illegally suppressing evidence in the gambling case, which is separate from Siegelman's decade-long prosecution.

But the good news for prosecutors was soon superceded. The Smoking Gun investigative website reported on April 22:

In a shocking failure to protect sensitive details about dozens of ongoing criminal investigations, federal officials somehow allowed confidential information about sealed cases to be publicly accessible via the court system’s online lookup service, The Smoking Gun has learned. Over the past nine months, details of 40 separate sealed court applications filed by federal prosecutors in Alabama were uploaded to PACER, the web-based records system that counts nearly one million users, including defense lawyers, prosecutors, journalists, researchers, private investigators, and government officials.

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U.S. Wars, Torture & Snooping Prompt Questions

Today, we highlight recent news reports concerning United States war-making, torture-like prison conditions for a suspected WikiLeaks accomplice, and electronic surveillance of vast numbers of ordinary citizens. Each action arguably violates historic interpretation of governing law.

Longtime readers surely notice that our columns on such topics are extending beyond our initial focus on due process rights in federal litigation. We started this project, for example, with in-depth reviews of the long-running prosecutions of Democratic former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and Republican former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik on corruption charges.

We're still exploring those enforcement tactics. But we cannot ignore the kind of overlapping due process and constitutional questions constantly arising also from the country's so-called war on terror.

The consequences directly affect domestic law because of ever-growing precedents expanding Executive Branch power.

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Experts Debate Nigerian Election Fairness

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director

A high-level panel of Nigerian experts on April 19 agreed – with one exception – that the presidential election in Africa’s most populous nation achieved largely credible results despite protest riots now occurring because of fraud allegations.

At a unique forum in Washington, DC of global importance, all but one of the assembled government and private experts praised as credible the ballot-counting that gives incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan a 2-1 victory over Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a former chief of state who emerged as the chief opposition candidate.

That confidence in the election results is despite fatal riots erupting in Buhari’s Muslim home region as his supporters protest what they regard as rigged results.

“The election was free, fair and credible,” Build Up Nigeria Project Founder Reno Omokri, right, told a packed conference audience of Nigerian and United States opinion leaders at the forum, “not because of the government but because of the youth.” 

Omokri, who agreed to be a guest on my radio show "Washington Update" Thursday, ascribed Jonathan’s valid re-election to young people using social media and other high-tech to achieve fair results. Omokri's differed sharply from that of his “mentor” sitting next to him, Nasir El-Rufai, former minister of the Federal Capital Territory surrounding the nation’s capital of Abuja.

El-Rufai travelled from Nigeria to present a paper arguing to the standing room-only audience that authorities cheated in their vote counts to ensure Jonathan’s victory. “In Rivers State,” he said in citing reports, “the Governor Rotimi Amaechi complained of low voter turnout, yet the final results showed 76% turnout, out of which 99% voted for the ruling party!” El-Rufai, 51, portrayed at right below, is a Muslim from the north who is a longtime member of the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP) who says he has been seeking recently to foster a strong challenge to PDP to improve the country's governance and elections.

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